Shoe leather, a textbook open house, and celebrating a dream come true

Real estate has changed dramatically in the years since I started. About 25 years ago I got my sales license issued by the Texas Real Estate Commission, sent via U.S. Mail after a few classes and an exam taken on paper with a #2 pencil. The first-generation cell phones were coming out and you had to lift weights to carry one. They worked great as long as you weren’t under a tree or too far from an interstate. Email and websites did not exist yet, and homes had just gone from being listed in MLS books to being available in DOS format via dial-up connection to a central database. Back then we had to work to get business and make ourselves as visible as possible with nothing but sweat equity.

Now almost every aspect of the real estate industry is electronic, beginning with every agent having their own websites to the all-encompassing Zillow, Trulia, and other international real estate resources. Docusign, online ratings, social media, investor chat groups, house-flippers, wholesalers, real estate teams, virtual offices, and a bull market with no end in sight has turned this profession into one that requires you do anything you can to be on the first page of Google when anyone searches for “home sales in Central Texas.” You can now execute a transaction from contract to closing and never meet your client in person.

Recent stats show that one in three licensed sales agents in Texas started after 2013, which makes me a dinosaur. It also means that a full third of the active agents in this state have never worked a down market and have never tried to sell without the help of a computer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but for some reason, that’s been nagging at me for a while. Perhaps in my advanced years (yes, I’m now over fifty. One.) I’m just feeling the need to make sure the herd hears me roar. So this last weekend I decided to let my inner dinosaur roam free. I broke out an old-school marketing technique and put it to good use. I Imagined it being rediscovered in some heavily-bound, dust-covered tome long lost in the real estate attic.

We planned an open house at a listing I have in Stagecoach Valley, a gorgeous neighborhood of tree-lined streets in Harker Heights. In preparation, we produced color fliers and other handouts that would normally be just for the event itself, but this time I tried something I hadn’t done in a long time. The day prior to the event myself and three of my agents, Carlos Pineda, Yohana Balladares, and Clifton Franco all went around Stagecoach Valley and knocked on
doors to personally invite the neighborhood to the open house. I hadn’t door-knocked in years and I’m pretty sure my agents had never tried it. There is no more basic marketing method than walking from house to house and introducing yourself to perfect strangers. Decades in the past it was the gold standard of sales, whether you were pushing vacuum cleaners or lawn care, there was no more certain way to get yourself in front of a potential client than to knock on their door and say “hello, my name is…” So that’s what we did on a hot Friday afternoon and the response we got was perfection, on a level that I didn’t anticipate.

The next day we set up and prepared the house for its guests. We advertised heavily through promoted social media postings and on our website and offered to donate $5 to Oxfam (Puerto Rico hurricane relief) for every person who came in and registered at the event. With refreshments laid out and plenty of information available about the house itself and our company, we hoped for a good turnout. And a good turnout we had, but with a surprise. For all the postings online, the overwhelming majority of visitors were the neighbors we had called on the day before. That had to sink in for a while, but the evidence showed that Google, Zillow, Facebook, and LinkedIn couldn’t hold a candle to a brisk afternoon walk through the neighborhood.

And during that brief time, my agents and I got to experience something that has lost its place in real estate over the last decade – the in-person conversation. No computers, no phones, no online stats, just a great chat with the neighbors. Michael & Peggy had been in their home for just over a year and were thrilled with the patio extension they had just completed. Phillip and Beulah had been there fifteen years and, while they love it, are considering a change now that the kids are grown. Four of the neighbors were Korean families wherein much of the conversation was lost in translation, although I did gather that they would love to have another Korean neighbor. Stories were told, questions answered, hands were shaken, and whether or not they ever become clients, we had the opportunity to present ourselves and our company in the same fashion that’s worked best for hundreds of years.

While all this was going on my Director of Operations, Becky Griffon, stopped by with her husband Shawn, both to support the cause and to sign the offer on their new home. Becky has run the management office at Linnemann Realty for over eleven years, and during that time I’ve watched her two kids grow up and I’ve seen the sacrifices she and her husband have had to make. Shawn served his country selflessly in the U.S. Army and spent far too many years away from family fighting in places most of us only see in movies and bad dreams. All of this made it even more special as the room filled with laughter and a few tears were shed while they “crossed the T’s” on the offer to purchase their new country home. A dream come true for two people who deserve it as much as anyone I’ve ever known. I was proud and overjoyed to be a part of it, and it reconfirmed for me what buying a house should be like for every client that walks through our doors.

Overall the open house was a roaring success. We had a great time, a great turnout, and raised a good amount of cash for Puerto Rico. This week Linnemann Realty will happily donate $220 to Oxfam in honor of those that attended our event. The best lesson learned was that, with all the technology we possess, there is no substitute for some good old-fashioned door-knocking. All it cost was an hour of our time and some shoe leather. I’m hoping that myself and my agents will continue to employ this time-tested tool when it comes to reaching our clientele and making new friends. The other lesson that I took away from it, even after this long in the business, is that this isn’t a transactional trade. It’s not about the numbers, it’s not about the stats. It’s about giving it your all to guide a family to the community and the home that will define their lives for years to come.

I love this profession because of that. The fact that I get to be the guy to can put this smile on someone’s face, or bring tears of joy just through the work I do. While it’s a big responsibility, I see it as an honor, and I’m truly fortunate that this is how I earn my living.